Identity Crisis

Although Nepali Congress leaders vowed to take necessary steps to strengthen the party for the coming elections, what they don't have at the moment is their identity

April 14, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 06 No. -20 Apr.12- 2013 (Chitra 30, 2069)

Nepali Congress Jamboree

As usual, Nepali Congress concluded its 4-day long Mahasamiti (General Council) meeting without coming up with any clear cut agenda for the elections of the Constituent Assembly. The leaders sang the swan song of bringing back the party’s past glory.

The meeting, from the outset, was unorganized. Even former leaders of Nepali Congress were present at the meeting without getting any formal invitation.

Former general secretary of Nepali Congress K.B. Gurung, who was taking rest due to health problems, was ignored in the assembly and nobody bothered to make any mention about him. In the two days of the council meeting, out of 1401 members, 200 members were given three minutes each to present their views.  Along with Gurung, other powerful former members were also undermined in terms of their pride of place.

On issues, ranging from forms of government to modality of federalism and other fundamental constitutional issues, Nepali Congress failed to come out with a clear stand.  Champion of the first past post elections and parliamentary democracy for six decades, Nepali Congress is at odds now to challenges the UCPN-Maoist presidential system and CPN-UML's elected Prime Ministerial system.

Similarly, it is yet to take a stand on the nature and structure of federalism. What model does it want to follow? Will it be a federal structure of India or of Bolivia? How many states does Nepali Congress want to carve?

Likewise, what will be the modality for judiciary and local governance that Nepali Congress aims to install? And what will be its stand on present set up of local bodies? In three tiers of government, what role the local self governance will be? Shall they be given constitutional status or just left under the periphery of province or state?

Ironically, a big enthusiastic crowd clapped in every pause of their leaders’ speeches. What political workers didn't find is the agenda to lure the voters in the elections. Along with Terai based regional parties, UCPN-Maoist is championing the cause of identity and ethnic based federalism.

"Nepali Congress has a clear stand on Federalism, Republic, Inclusion and Secularism," said Nepali Congress leader Bimalendra Nidhi. "Our General Council gave a clear cut mandate to us regarding our future role."

The 4-day gathering of Nepali Congress Mahasamiti (General Assembly) came to an end following the big pronouncement of its top leaders to secure majority in the forthcoming elections of Constituent Assembly. However, desperate and frustrated cadres of Nepali Congress are yet to find ground to justify that their party will emerge as the largest party.

For its over sixty years, Nepali Congress, the country's oldest party, has been championing  the cause of liberal democracy and nationalism. However, it lost its appeal when it joined the Maoist agenda after signing the peace agreement in 2006. Now many regional parties, and CPN-UML are challenging its old credentials.

"Nepali Congress has still its utility. Our party is the only liberal democratic party in the country with proven credentials as a force of all the political changes since 1950," thundered Sushil Koirala, president of Nepali Congress. “This general meeting will inject spirit and strength in our party."

Along with party president Koirala, former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel called their party workers to join the mayhem to bring the party into the right tack. "You have to work hard to rejuvenate the party in the forthcoming elections," appealed former Prime Minister Deuba.

Despite the claim of its leaders, the message of the general council meeting held in Parasi, 300 kilometers west, is unclear and majority of leaders returned their home without knowing how to go to the people for vote. NC legendary leader B.P. Koirala used to say Nepali Congress would have no place in politics once it's gave up its liberal and central role, championing nationalism and democracy together. The present situation is that Nepali Congress lacks both.

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